Babushkas, imposing architecture and Soviet Champagne: Five days in Belarus

Finding the light in a country that operates in the dark.

Compared with more than 85 million people who visit France each year, Belarus’ 119,000 annual visitors are a mere drop in the ocean.

Certainly, as ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’, and with an underdeveloped service industry, it’s easy to see why the former Republic of the Soviet Union is yet to top the average traveller’s bucket list.

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McDonald’s Cyprus’ Bacon Halloumi Muffin: A Review

Why no one in the marketing department at McDonald’s Cyprus decided to call this the ‘McHalloumi’ baffled me, because essentially that’s what it is.

Dish: Bacon Halloumi Muffin

Description: Grilled halloumi with bacon, lettuce and a tomato slice served in an English muffin. Came with a hash brown on the side and a café latte, as part of the ubiquitous breakfast meal deal.

Price: €4.50 (£3.95) for the meal

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Gaycation Baltimore

Why John Waters’ zany Baltimore is an overlooked East Coast LGBTI gem

Ahead of Baltimore Pride this weekend (Saturday 16 – Sunday 17 June 2018) I spoke to some prominent LGBTI figures from the East Coast city to find out why the Maryland seaport needs to be next on your gaycation bucket list.

Often overlooked as a tourist destination, the city that gave the world John Waters – and ‘Hairspray’! – is certainly making up for lost time in the welcoming stakes.  Recently dubbed the ‘Coolest City on the East Coast’ and one of the most exciting food cities by ‘Zagat’, Baltimore has experienced one of the largest millennial booms in the nation. Charm City has certainly been doing just that with the ‘New York Times’ too, having been placed 15 on its ‘52 Places to Go in 2018’ list. So long Rust Belt!

Baltimore Skyline
Baltimore Skyline

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Gippsland rocks!

Avoid the crowds and explore this gorgeous slice of Australiana

I am embarrassed to admit that, before I visited Australia, I had never heard of the rural region of Gippsland. Despite a massive chunk of my guidebook covering Victoria, there isn’t even a footnote on Warragul, the ‘wild dog’ town that I came to love after just a few days.

My cousin Richard and his wife Leanne emigrated from the UK – where I live – to Gippsland in 2005 and, eager to see them after several years, I planned my first trip to Australia for March this year.

After a few days in Sydney over Mardi Gras, I flew to Adelaide for the Fringe before making my way along the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne and then on to Warragul. Ticking off some of Australia’s most iconic sights en-route, I was now excited at the prospect of tasting real life Down Under with my family.

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My first Mardi Gras

How an Australian adventure helped me get my groove back

To say I wasn’t looking forward to attending Mardi Gras was somewhat of an understatement.

It was meant to be the holiday of a lifetime; my fiancé and I had spent a year saving to visit Sydney, Adelaide, the Great Ocean Road and Melbourne. Everything was booked and paid for and then, just two days after Christmas last year, he told me he didn’t love me anymore – and that he’d cheated on me.

Understandably, I was crushed and my whole world crumbled around me, with a bright future suddenly seeming very bleak. We’d been together for five years, have a house – even a dog – together and with everything to sort out as a result, both physically and emotionally, a holiday Down Under was the last thing on my mind.

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Sun, sea, sand… and steam: Rediscovering Cyprus’ lost railways

Cyprus Railways Museum sheds light on the Mediterranean island’s little-known former rail network

Cyprus is known for lots of things; gorgeous beaches, meze or even that it was the first place in the world to domesticate cats (nearly 6,000 years before the Egyptians, no less).

However, rail travel is certainly something rarely associated with the Mediterranean island. Yet, between 1905 and 1951 the narrow gauge (2ft 6in or 762mm) Cyprus Government Railway (CGR) carried more than seven million passengers and in excess of three million tons of goods across the country.

Locomotive No. 1
Locomotive No. 1

Today, there is little evidence to suggest that this railway existed at all, but thanks to the opening of a new museum in the Republic of Cyprus and a personal preservation project in Northern Cyprus, during a recent visit to the island, I was able to discover how this former railway was crucial to the development of the country in the first half of the 20th century.

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Top 10 Toulouse

Get ready for take-off on an eclectic city break in France’s aviation powerhouse

While ‘la Ville Rose’ (the Pink City) may not enjoy the same international status as Paris or evoke the glamour of the French Riviera, Toulouse actually gives both a run for their money in the bucket load. Plus, when we spotted flights from London Stansted on Ryanair for less than a meal out, it seemed rude not to give France’s fourth-largest city a whirl.

Toulouse really does have something for everyone, which made narrowing down a ‘top 10’ list really difficult. However, after careful deliberation, below are my favourite places, attractions and places to eat and drink in Toulouse.

1. Place du Capitole

Instantly recognisable from its pink brickwork, the grandiose Place du Capitole makes for an obvious location to start exploring Toulouse. With its eight rosy marble columns, the square is dominated by the Capitole, named after the 12th century administration of the city and remains as the home of its local government.  From just one glimpse of its impressive 135 metre-long neoclassical façade, it is easy to see how Toulouse became the official capital of France’s Languedoc region in the 16th century and has maintained that status under today’s newly-formed Occitanie super region.

Capitole, Place du Capitole
Capitole, Place du Capitole

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The ‘gayest’ city in the world?

Skopje’s classical makeover may be both controversial and kitsch, but we couldn’t get enough of it!

Imagine if Mariah Carey decided to rebuild Ancient Rome… Thankfully, one doesn’t have to conjure up depictions of glitzy statues and wedding-cake style buildings, as such a place exists and it is called Skopje.

From faux neoclassical façades to willow trees plonked in the middle of the river, every nook and cranny of the city centre is an Instagramable dream.

For us gay travellers, it was Warrior on a Horse that did it.

Warrior on a Horse
Warrior on a Horse

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Fairy Tale Museum

A magical museum of fairy tale treasures near Cyprus’ buffer zone.

In Nicosia, Cyprus, there’s a museum that brings a touch of whimsical delight to a street just outside the city’s grim demilitarized zone along the Green Line.

Opened in February 2017, the Fairy Tale Museum is the perfect place to explore the magical world of fairy tales. Located in a renovated Grade II listed building, the museum aims to preserve and promote fairy stories, legends, myths, and traditions from Cyprus, Greece, and other places around the world.

Fairy Tale Museum
Fairy Tale Museum

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Watering hole in one

X-rated crazy golf comes to Birmingham

I’ve tried to like golf, I really have. Despite evenings spent at the driving range swinging until I am dripping with sweat and it being a hobby with one of the best wardrobes going, I’ve just never been able to grasp its appeal. However, when you throw a cocktail bar, scrummy street food and a fistful of dildos into the mix, then suddenly, I am interested.

After being a success in Liverpool, Ghetto Golf has recently made its Birmingham debut at the Custard Factory in Digbeth and is creating quite the buzz. It was only fair then that my fiancé, one of our close friends and myself met for a post-work game and gossip in this adults-only venue to see what all the fuss was about.

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